The Role of Emotion in an Existential Education

Emotion is usually conceived as playing a relatively external role in education: either it is raw material reshaped by rational practices, or it merely motivates intellectual reasoning. Drawing upon the philosophy of Hegel and Plato’s Socrates, I argue, however, that education is a process of existential transformation and that emotion plays an essential, internal role therein. Through an analysis of Hegel’s master and slave dialectic, I argue that emotions have their own logic and that an individual can be propelled to increasingly rational emotional stances (her emotions can be educated) by the demands of the emotional situationitself, even in the absence of any intellectual reasoning or rational training. Appealing also to the structure and content of Socrates’ conversations, I argue that intellectual reasoning can lead to self-overcoming only insofar as it involves a particular emotional orientation towards the emotional challenges of genuine learning, that is, insofar as it is “conscientious reasoning.”
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